With rumours rife that Cristiano Ronaldo might soon be on the move from Madrid, a tongue-in-cheek tweet by a little-known German football club offering him paid-in-beer employment next season caught the imagination of the football world and went viral.
Humorous social media strategy aside, the question that many football fans whose knowledge of the city’s football history doesn’t extend beyond 1.FC Köln were asking was: who are Fortuna Köln?
— Fortuna Köln (@fortuna_koeln) June 16, 2017
This was a club that came together in the immediate post-war years through a merger of three local clubs and spent most of the latter period of the twentieth century in the second tier, and very much second in the local hierarchy behind mighty 1.FC Köln.
Its best years came under charismatic millionaire owner Jean Löring who took over in 1967 with ambitions to topple his big neighbours. The modest financial investment he made looked to have paid off in 1973 when Fortuna earned its first and only promotion to the Bundesliga.
It proved a short stay and with journeymen strikers like Karl-Heinz Struth and Rolf Kucharski, the step up in quality too large to bridge – this despite the best efforts of the president who even took over as interim manager for three weeks after sacking the incumbent Volker Rottmann.
The highlight of the club’s history came in 1983 when Fortuna reached the Final of the DFB-Pokal as a second tier club and faced neighbours 1.FC Köln in the most important city derby match ever played. Largely dominant throughout the game, Fortuna’s hopes were crushed by a late winner from Pierre Littbarski.
Fortuna came close to a top-flight return in 1986 when the club reached (and lost heavily) a 2.Bundesliga play-off with Borussia Dortmund. These were heady years for the club with relatively big names like Anthony Baffoe, Uwe Fuchs and Stefan Engels being brought in to try and push the club over the line and back into the big time. Tony Woodcock brought an English connection finishing his playing career at the club and taking over for a stint as manager, but decline set in and Jean Luring was ousted in 2000.
By 2005 a financial crisis brought down the club only for it to reform as a fan-owned institution and start working its way back up the pyramid and reaching the third tier in 2014 where it resides at present. It might take some time before its footballing exploits register on the consciousness of the footballing public, but at least its social presence is doing its bit to introduce this venerable old club to a wider audience.